Weird and Wonderful: WandaVision
Written by Eric Seitz
The low-down on WandaVision and its implications on the MCU’s brave new world.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
A retro-style sitcom featuring an unequivocally dead Avenger and his grieving girlfriend was hardly the most anticipated series when Marvel Studios announced its slew of titles coming to Disney+. For many, it was not even not the least anticipated series (I said what I said). Furthermore, the show’s slow-burn rollout that had its first few episodes basking in their sitcom-iness was met with mixed reviews.
However, WandaVision’s arrival has made a cultural splash, trending on social media platforms like TikTok and Twitter and sweeping the world as Marvel Studios’ first offering since July 2019. More than halfway through its freshman season, WandaVision has proven that good things do in fact come to those who wait.
When episode four “We Interrupt This Program” broke from the show’s sitcom-with-a-dark-underbelly format to explore the world outside of the sitcom, the audience promptly went — and I’m about to use a technical term here — absolutely bonkers. WandaVision has struck the perfect balance between the reality-bent Westview and the characters outside trying to figure their way in, and the show’s newfound alternating format displayed that this wasn’t the complete divergence from the MCU’s formula that audiences thought it was.
For being a series that completely ignores much of the world around it, WandaVision is the MCU’s most fourth-wall-breaking, meta-referencing, homage-paying work that the studio has put out.
WandaVision’s premise is cute — two Avengers move to a suburban town and try to blend in, despite their powers and unique characteristics. However, the premise is not what makes Marvel Studios’ first foray into television so stellar. If WandaVision were a cake, its sitcom premise would be the cake stand — a sturdy yet beautiful stand; one that will hold up the beautiful cake that sits on top of it; it’s not what you came for, but it sure does help make the experience a great one. After all, a cake would just be a pile of mush if it didn’t have a stand hoisting it up. Watching those first three episodes and all their sitcom-y glory is what gave episode four its oomph. Showing Monica get un-blipped in the hospital and then cutting to the Marvel Studios intro would have been less awe-inspiring if the show had already explained the goings-on of life outside Westview. However, audiences go in blind, entering episode four with only knowledge of life inside Wanda’s make-believe town.
Episode four even nods to the silliness of the sitcom with meta references from adorably relatable characters Darcy and Agent Woo. Episode four’s genius is rooted in its references to the bizzaro-coaster that the first three episodes just forced audiences to endure. Agent Woo’s line sums it up perfectly: “The universe created a sitcom about two Avengers?” Yes, Jimmy. It did — the Marvel Cinematic Universe created a sitcom about two Avengers. Darcy’s growing affection for the sitcom midway through the episode mirrors the audience’s own growing affection — though we were skeptical at first, wondering when the classic MCU magic would come into play, we’ve grown to love its cheesy sitcom format. For being a series that completely ignores much of the world around it, WandaVision is the MCU’s most fourth-wall-breaking, meta-referencing, homage-paying work that the studio has put out.
WandaVision is many things. One of its major attributes is that it’s a love letter to various eras of sitcom television. Episodes one and two wowed audiences with their attention to detail in creating sitcom episodes of the 50’s and 60’s that felt true to their respective eras.
The series’ music alone is unprecedented magic — Frozen songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez wrote the theme songs for every decade-themed episode so far. The mashing together of the MCU with sitcom television results in genius songwriting, complete with nods to the events of the MCU and to the state of the show’s plot at the time. The songs themselves are stellar works as well, complete with true-to-era instrumentation and vocals.
Further, the show progresses in its production technology as the decades advance — in episode one, Wanda uses her magic to put rings on both hers and Vision’s hands, but the technology of the 1950’s was nowhere near what we see Wanda’s magic portrayed as now, so the scene features two clips bumped up against each other, flashing from a shot of their ringless hands to a shot of their hands with rings on them. The genuineness of that moment is hit home with the very visible fact that their hands are in slightly different spots when they have the rings on them.
The MCU is not afraid of altering the status quo (see Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers Infinity War), but its series like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Daredevil notoriously have little to no bearing on the heavy-hitting films that the MCU is known for. WandaVision proves that this is no longer the case: After months of fans speculating whether the X-Men would arrive in the MCU, WandaVision shattered the wall that separated the two universes with a single cliffhanger scene at the end of episode five. This simple crossover cameo will have ripple-effects throughout the upcoming films from the studios. Further, WandaVision is the first in what is being called a “loose trilogy” story that also includes Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (in which Wanda will also appear) and the untitled third Spider-Man film.
Perhaps the show’s greatest feat, though, comes in its ability to juggle a serious, MCU-level plot and a sitcom plot at once, making them intertwine with one another as they go along. This is best evidenced in episode five: As Wanda’s fake world seems to be crumbling around her, so too does the actual plot of the sitcom episode. The storyline of the twins convincing Wanda and Vision to let them adopt a dog feels truncated and clumsy, and this is on purpose — as Vision grows suspicious of Wanda and as Agnes’s strange nature comes to the surface, the doomed dog storyline reflects Wanda’s descent into turmoil that she reaches at the end of the episode. Vision’s mistrust in her as well as her own guilt over her (presumed) misdoings not only causes poor Sparky to die, but also makes her effort to teach her boys about the permanence of death to fall flat — if Wanda could justify bringing Vision back to life in an attempt to run from her grief, what makes her qualified to tell her boys that running from their grief is wrong?
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a master-class of raising thought-provoking questions on morality, duty, grief, and survival. WandaVision is simply the latest in a long line of stellar storytelling journeys. I didn’t need more of an excuse to continue watching what Marvel has in store, but if you are looking for a reason, let WandaVision be it. It’s got, like, 80 reasons. In each episode.